According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), the United States was the largest supplier of arms and weaponry to Saudi Arabia during 2015 and 2019 accounting for 73 per cent of its arms imports during the same period. The sale of arms to the Middle East has increased by about 61 per cent during 2010 and 2019. The sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia accounted for 25 per cent of the total arms sales of the United States during 2015 and 2019. US President Donald Trump vetoed recently three Congress acts seeking to stop the immediate sale of weapons to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates. In Trump’s belief, any opposition to the emergency sale of arms to these two countries would damage Washington’s relations with them while weakening America’s status in the global trade of arms. Since the late 1990s, the United States has remained the world’s largest exporter of weapons and Saudi Arabia has been the biggest customer of American weapons. In 2018, the United States sold 55.6 billion dollars of arms, registering a 33-per cent growth compared to its previous year. Only in 2017, the United States signed a contract to sell 18 billion dollars of arms to Saudi Arabia. In the five years ending 2017, one-fifth of the total arms manufactured in the US were sold to Saudi Arabia. The United States is on the belief that the 110-billion dollar investment by Saudi Arabia in the US soil should not be stopped as the result of pursuing the Khashoggi murder case.
Germany is another seller of arms to Saudi Arabia. German arms sales to Saudi Arabia continues despite the prohibitions declared in that country and against sever opposition and criticism by the left MPs in the Bundestag. In 2019, Germany was indirectly involved in the delivery of weapons to Saudi Arabia in spite of the prohibition of the export of arms to that country. According to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy of Germany, during the past year, and on two occasions, France has sanctioned the export of 4.87 million euros of arms produced in Germany to Saudi Arabia. Moreover, in a joint European action, Germany exported Eurofighter and Tornado fighter jet spare parts in the past 10 months to Saudi Arabia.
The total prohibition of arms exports by Germany to Saudi Arabia was enacted after the murder of Khashoggi in November 2018. It has been renewed three times since then. The extension of the prohibition of arms exports to Saudi Arabia means no arms should be sold to Saudi Arabia even if the export permit has been issued. Notwithstanding, arms produced jointly by Germany and European countries were exported to Saudi Arabia last March.
At the beginning of the current year, the government of Germany extended the prohibition on arms exports to Saudi Arabia for nine months. On such a basis, the government of Germany does not intend to allow new exports by the end of December 2020. The export of consignments already permitted by the government has been put on hold as well. In the meantime, the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Energy revealed that Berlin has issued export permits in the first four months of the current year for the sale of 122 weapons consignments to eight members of the Arab coalition against Yemen, all exceeding 1.1 billion euros in value. German companies are not sanctioned to deliver parts needed by partner countries to produce weaponry for Saudi Arabia. The United Kingdom has issued permits to export weapons to Saudi Arabia with a value of 6.4 billion British pounds since January 2015; and has played a serious role in training military forces of Saudi Arabia. This is while the UK introduces itself as the supporter of the termination of the war in Yemen as well as the advocate of Arms Trade Treaty to prevent the transfer of illegal weapons in violation of international rules and regulations.
According to a report by Oxfam (an international organization for research and aid to eradicate poverty, hunger and injustice in the world), three billion pounds of the total British arms sold to Saudi Arabia are for the sale of fighter jets, helicopters and drones and 2.6 billion pounds for grenade, bomb and missile. Oxfam describes the sale of British weapons to Saudi Arabia as a shame on the consciousness of the UK.
Moreover, the British government has issued 385 permits during January 2015 and December 2019 for the sale of arms to Saudi Arabia on the basis of which there is no restriction on the quantity of such trade. The UK Defense Secretary said the British government is keen on strengthening its relations with Saudi Arabia, especially in military exports and trade. The UK International Trade Secretary has issued permits for the sale of weapons such as Tornado and Typhoon fighter jets to Saudi Arabia used in the war against Yemen.
Nearly half of British arms exports are channelled to Saudi Arabia and such arms are being used in the killing of thousands of innocent people and civilians. Economic reasons and profit is usually employed to justify such arms sales to Saudi Arabia while less than 0.2 per cent of the UK’s labour force is employed in the arms manufacturing sector and arms exports account for only 1.5 per cent of the total exports of the United Kingdom. Another reason formulated by the British authorities to continue selling arms to Saudi Arabia is that if London does not supply arms to Saudi Arabia, others such as China, Russia and the US would overtake the market and sell billions of dollars of weapons to Saudis. Saudi Arabia’s open-ended appetite for arms and weapons has pleased British suppliers. So far, Britain has sold five billion pounds of arms to Saudi Arabia during its invasion on Yemen. During 2015 and 2018, the UK government has issued permits for the sale of at least 4.7 billion pounds of arms to Saudi Arabia and 860 million pounds to Saudi allies in the region.
France’s arms export to Saudi Arabia and sales and transactions deeds in 2019 demonstrated that the French government has sold the highest amount of arms after Qatar to Saudi Arabia and Egypt. France has sold 1.4 billion euros of arms to Saudi Arabia and one billion euros to Egypt during the last year. According to the latest report of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI), France has registered a 72-per cent increase in the sale of its arms during 2015 and 2019, accounting for 7.9 per cent of the world’s total arms sales.
Canada broke the record of selling military hardware to Saudi Arabia in spite of the prohibition of new arms exports. Canada sends close to 2.9 billion dollars of arms hardware to Saudi Arabia in 2020, registering a two-time increase compared to 2019. Such exports included light armoured vehicles and 31 large-calibre artillery systems and 152 heavy machine guns.
Coalition forces comprising of some Arab governments led by Saudi Arabia and guided the United Arab Emirates began their airstrikes on Yemen on 25 March 2015 in the Operation Decisive Storm. The coalition forces killed and wounded tens of thousands of women, children and defenceless people and prevented the delivery of international humanitarian aid by the ICRC to war-stricken areas of Yemen. They also used forbidden weapons and destroyed civilian structures. Saudi Arabia, under the political and logistical support of Western governments, is committing war crimes in Yemen by targeting civilians and absolute disregard for the principle of distinction between military and civilian targets and objects. Saudi Arabia’s government actions, supported by the arms of its Western allies, in imposing a blockade on Yemen have caused a humanitarian crisis and complicated the delivery of medicine and food and endangered the health and wellbeing of the Yemeni children, women and men. War on Yemen has exposed millions of people to severe famine and hunger as the UN has described it as the biggest humanitarian catastrophe.
Military intervention in Yemen, from the viewpoint of the international law, constitutes a violation of the fundamental principles of non-coercion and non-intimidation (as enshrined in paragraph 4 of Article 2 of the UN Charter) and a clear example of military aggression as stipulated in Resolution 3314 of the General Assembly of the United Nations as well as numerous humanitarian rules and regulations. Such intervention also constitutes an example of war crimes as testified by competent international organizations. The Saudi invasion of Yemen also violates inviolable human rights laws as described in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Attacks by the Saudi-led forces are considered as breaching provisions of the four Geneva Conventions (1949) and Article 8 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, all constituting war crimes. Saudi Arabia and its allies have repeatedly struck hospitals, refugee camps, school buses, schools and orphanage houses, killing civilians. Paragraph 4 of Article 2 of the UN Charter refers to the prohibition of intimidation and non-resort to force against the territorial integrity of sovereign states. It also prohibits other states from attacking each other and emphasizes on the necessity of maintaining the sovereignty and territorial integrity of all the UN Member States including Yemen. Saudi Arabia, as a UN Member, has violated the principles and foundations enshrined in the UN Charter and should be held responsible towards breaching the principle of prohibition of the threat or use of force as well as respect to sovereignty, territorial integrity and self-determination rights of other states.